Thursday, 22 December 2011

A DC 2011 Retrospective - Batman Inc.

Well, not so much of a retrospective this week, as Batman Inc. returns for one last issue in 2011 - Leviathan Strikes!

It’s meaty, it’s massive, it’s Morrison! But is this weeks Batman one shot worthy?

On first impressions you have to at least admit that being given a one-shot that is the size and feel of a small graphic novel is really nice especially when it’s only $6.99.

For those who aren’t aware, Batman Incorporated was a short run title that was a natural progression from Bruce Wayne’s journey back through time following his “death”. It was Bruce’s vision for setting up an international network of fully backed individuals all under the corporate logo of Batman himself. Dotting across the world, the issues handled the recruitment and review of candidates and their setups ensuring that they were suitable for the big plan.

Unfortunately, in the grand DC scheme of things, Batman Inc didn’t make it through the recent 52 reshaping. Instead we have seen titles such as Batwing appear on our shelves as a direct result and a number of loose ends which the premature pausing of the series created. Now this one shot is giving the reader a chance to tie up some of those loose ends.

Written entirely by Morrison with Chris Burnham and Cameron Stewart providing the artwork for each of the chapters there is a great continuity throughout the entire issue and it tracks back really well.

The first chapter is following Stephanie Brown (back when she was still Batgirl) as she begins a new academic year in what can only be seen as a feeder school. In this case though the feeder school is designed to produce a very special type of femme fatale for Leviathan, Batman Inc’s corporate nemesis. As with many of Morrison’s stories not everything is as it seems.

What’s great about this chapter is that it is non stop. You’re always engaged and even when it slows down the addition of a scenario or a protagonist such as Son of Pyg, a particularly sadistic and twisted individual, keeps you interested.

The second chapter is more to do with addressing where Batman left off with trying to address what Leviathan actually is. It’s twisty and turny with no end of ideas coming from Netz, the post mortem villain, and leads you to think about a variety of different possibilities whilst also piecing a bigger story together behind it. It’s a smart piece of writing to manage it all as well with the reader having to work to keep up. This isn’t a bad thing though as it’s just a different method of storytelling made and is equally as rewarding. Even better still is that it keeps growing and building to quite a significant moment, one which suddenly makes complete sense across so many levels by revealing just who exactly is behind Leviathan and it’s one that hits on so many levels that you can only respect the planning behind it all. Talia Al Ghul, a woman who has affected the Waynes in so many ways and now has an even bigger part to play.

Overall this is a great one-shot. The price may dissuade some readers but all I can say is that Morrison has taken some possibly dubious building blocks from the Batman Inc run and forged them into something with a lot more promise and pretence making this worth the cost. Batman Inc. returns in 2012 and this is an essential read before then.

Matt Puddy is wishing you all a great Bat-Christmas!

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